11,000 in main protest to mark independence referendum anniversary

Atmosphere peaceful as attendees boo representatives of government main party, which prioritizes talks with Spain

Thousands in the main pro-independence protest to mark the 2017 referendum's fifth anniversary
Thousands in the main pro-independence protest to mark the 2017 referendum's fifth anniversary / Jordi Borràs
Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | @enGuifre | Barcelona

October 1, 2022 06:11 PM

October 1, 2022 08:25 PM

Around 11,000 people, according to local police, attended the main protest to mark the independence referendum fifth referendum, which was held in Barcelona's Arc de Triomf on Saturday from 5pm.

One of the organizing entities, Council for the Republic, estimated 60,000 attendees in the rally.

All mainstream pro-independence parties and entities attended, a rare image given that the two government partners, Esquerra and Junts, are at odds over the way forward to split from Spain – indeed, the coalition may come to an end in the coming days after Junts will hold an internal vote to ask whether they want to exit the executive.

The main protest to mark the 2017 referendum fifth anniversary gathered 11,000 people / Guifré Jordan

Passeig de Lluís Companys, between the Arc de Triomf and the Parc de la Ciutadella main entrance, was half full during the event.

Consell de la República, Òmnium, ANC, and AMI civic groups, as well as Intersindical trade union and Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce hosted the protest, which remain peaceful.

Anger in the atmosphere

Yet, the atmosphere was not as festive as some pro-independence protests in the past, and the current disunity and discouragement among campaigners was obvious.

Indeed, a large number of attendees cheered Junts' speakers, such as MEP Clara Ponsatí, and booed mentions of Esquerra's secretary general, Marta Rovira.

Former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell's speech prompted a split in the crowd, as some cheered her while others booed.

The Municipalities for the Independence Association (AMI)'s president, Jordi Gaseni, member of Esquerra, was also booed when he called on government parties to continue their alliance.

While Junts wants to continue the path of confrontation with Spain that peaked in 2017 and calls for exercising "the mandate of the 2017 referendum," Esquerra prioritizes talks with Spain in order to persuade Madrid to agree on a referendum like Scotland did in the 2010s with the United Kingdom. 

Puigdemont: 'No need for another referendum, we already held it in 2017'

The president during the 2017 referendum, Carles Puigdemont, received the loudest cheers during his speech. 

"We already held the referendum, there is no need to repeat it. We already voted," he said to the crowd.

Puigdemont said his civic organization, Council for the Republic, is "ready to lead" the independence push if needed in its "second cycle," which he said starts now.

He also said the negotiation table has to be "between siblings," referring to the several factions of the independence camp, rather than with Spain.

Pro-independence 'national conference' that could end up in new party

Also talking in the protest, Dolors Feliu, president of major grassroots civic entity ANC, announced her organization will organize a "large national conference" by February 2023. 

The aim of this initiative is to put together civic organizations across the country and individuals to discuss a potential new party running in the next Catalan election.

Feliu had already suggested this possibility in the National Day rally hosted by her entity last month, which gathered between 150,000 and 700,000 people.

Yet, this was not the only gathering marking the anniversary, because events took place in several locations across Catalonia especially during the morning.

Filling the Sink podcast

Check out our podcast published exactly 5 years after the vote: